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Tyson buyer: Producer audits will grow within meat industry
Indiana Correspondent

JASPER, Ind. — Consumers are most concerned about quality when buying meat and other protein products, a Tyson buyer told a group of pork producers last week.

Other top concerns include use of hormones and antibiotics, said Ed Tice, during his talk at the Southern Indiana Pork Conference in Jasper. Addressing those concerns and building producer credibility is the aim of the audit Tyson launched last fall, he explained.
Eight Tyson buyers were trained to conduct the audits, with the aim of touring at least one sow unit of each of the company’s 25 top producers. Now that program is stretching the pool to Tyson suppliers who annually market in excess of 1,000 sows. A company has been hired to complete the tours.

Tice estimated each producer should get the audit once every three years. There will be two different audits for sow-nursery grower units and grow-finisher. The top 25 suppliers will be audited every year. Everyone else is chosen by a lottery.

Producers will be provided self-audit forms that, once completed, should be kept on file for a year. Sow unit forms will need to be completed once a week and grower-finishers, on a monthly basis, Tice said. “We want to prove that our suppliers are above expectations of the public,” he said.

Since Tyson is in the protein industry, Tice said the audits are going to be conducted on beef and poultry as well.

One of the most important aspects of passing the audit is having all employees PQA Plus certified and up to date on animal handling training. At least one person per site must be PQA Plus certified. Other aspects include having a written biosecurity plan at every site and a written euthanasia plan, as well as a backup euthanasia plan.
It is necessary to keep a record on-site, too, verifying each animal has been checked daily for food, water and medical attention. Documentation is critical if an issue arises, Tice said.

Producers will be notified 2-3 weeks ahead of each audit. Once on-site, auditors will go into the barns and check for adequate spacing, food and other necessities. They will look at actual handling of hogs, including castration procedures, how hogs are moved and if the employee has control of the lead animal.

“They will watch you handle adult boars, noting how boars react to humans. If he’s scared, the auditor is going to ask questions,” Tice said. “If you have a flighty boar, get him out of there.”

They’ll watch an employee walk a sow and in a sow-finish area, and they will monitor the length of time it takes for sows to approach a human. “They will climb over the gate and handle your hogs. If you have small pigs, they’ll watch you vaccinate and hand herder boards,” he said.

Auditors will check for sharp objects that might inflict injuries in the barns. Producers should log when something like that is reported and note the date it was fixed.

Other items that will be checked are the list of antibiotics administered to each hog and the protocol used to move ill animals to the hospital pen and whether medication or euthanasia is the choice action.

Auditors will talk with employees, so Tice said it is wise to coach them prior to the audit.

Tyson was the first to institute the audits, Tice said. Now Hormel and JBS are conducting them. Smithfield will do something and Cargill will at some point, he assured conference participants.
“If you only sell to Tyson, ask for the FarmCheck audit. It only takes three or four hours to complete,” he said. Otherwise, the audit company will take 6-8 hours.

There is no cost to Tyson contractors, he said, so if a producer wants a full audit, they should ask.